Since the creation of Benue State in 1976 till date, it has produced a coterie of professional critics. They see everything wrong with what the government in power does, except their skewed expertise in governance. Their strategy is to gain access to the state purse. On the flipside, they pretend to be the voice of the people. In the second republic, Aper Aku, the first democratically elected Governor of the state from 1979 till the military struck in 1983, had it rough with this group. The leadership of the defunct Nigeria People’s Party, NPP in the state, encouraged by the then Plateau State government made life miserable for Aku. The critics who were bitter against Aku because he won the governorship ticket led a faction of the party and added the pressure. Late Rev Fr. Moses Orshio Adasu lasted less than two years so he faced little of the hate campaign.
Then came George Akume in 1999. Between 1999 and 2007 when Akume was in office, the Kaduna based Benue Proactive Coalition mounted immense pressure on the Akume led administration. In the end, when some of these emergency agitators were properly accommodated in that government, they lost their voices. When Gabriel Suswam took over in 2007, he had his fair share. Suswam was roughly tackled even by his godfather, Sen George Akume. It was all to wrestle power, not for the sake of the people they claimed to love.
Now, as the nation inches close to the 2023 elections, the colony of critics has re-emerged. They have found cover under the APC. I see many of the actors and sponsors of the defunct Benue Proactive Coalition with their fingerprints in the Benue Patriotic Front. Someone who lost his job as a transport officer with the Benue State Board of Internal Revenue Service, BIRS prides himself as the leader of the BPF. He is angry at how he lost out too soon. Like many in that camp, are ready to drag Governor Samuel Ortom down by all means as part of their strategy to grab power. They concoct lies with so much ease.
There is a briefcase association known as ‘Tiv Youth Council Worldwide.’ For close to fifteen years, if not more, its acclaimed leader’s ancestral lands of Moon in Turan district of Kwande local government area have been occupied by Fulani militia. And he finds nothing wrong with this. He, like many in this coalition, would rather, that Ortom shuts up than be heard raising his voice against injustice from the Buhari presidency.
Just a few days ago, an APC governorship aspirant was quoted to have made some scathing remarks against Governor Ortom when some of his political associates visited him in his Makurdi residence. He chose to make false claims. He made unsubstantiated claims on the state’s monthly Internally Generated Revenue, in comparison with the monthly wage bill expenditure. He claimed there are tendencies this government has indulged in greed to run away from its responsibilities. And because they want power, they easily tell such fat lies to sway sympathy. But that’s not how to win elections.
Those who peddle these weird tales against Governor Ortom deliberately turn blind eyes to the many successes the Ortom administration has recorded in areas like education, health, works, rural infrastructure and above all security. The support the state government gives to security agencies in the state has given rise to the relative peace we now have. Yet, this group and their partners display so much ignorance when they made some spurious claims against the government. Sadly, the APC and its people are behaving like the proverbial ostrich.
Let it be known to all that the sole aim of those sponsoring campaigns of calumny against the Ortom administration is to push their way to power by whatever means possible. They believe that arm-twisting pays. They assume that perhaps, by the time they rattle Ortom, they will beat him into submission. How unlucky they will be. Because the Governor has maintained a clean slate in his dealings with the affairs of the state.
For the avoidance of doubt, Gov Ortom believes that every Benue son or daughter is eminently qualified to occupy the seat of the Governor of Benue state. That is the reason he has always extended his administration’s hand of fellowship to all Benue people, seeking collaboration at all times for the good of the state. So any Benue son who wishes to govern the state should not attempt to pull down Ortom to shine. Rather, they should showcase what they have to offer to the people. That’s the only way to gain the confidence of the people and win the votes in any election.
Yes, Benue is rich. Benue is endowed with agricultural and human resources. But the environment must be secured. Our elites must be men and women who are genuinely committed to the development of the state. Not lip service or dishing out falsehood when they want to grab power. All of us, collectively and individually are needed to galvanise this to fruition.
And let me say this. The Benue APC leader was on video, urging the Tiv to strengthen their friendship with the Fulani. Make no mistake, neither Governor Ortom nor any Tiv man hates Fulani. Not at all. What Ortom and all of us detest and are kicking against is the criminal Fulani whose agenda is to kill, maim and take over our lands. And this is what the Governor is stoutly defending. While Governor Ortom isn’t appreciated at home, his consistency has proven that he’s the nation’s pathfinder. That’s why his words have become the conscience of the nation.
And whether we like it or not, the 2023 elections will be about truth, justice and equity. It will be firm about the survival of the people of Benue state. The APC and its array of candidates will have to convince the Benue people how they intend to safeguard Benue ancestral lands from the killing squad of the Fulani herders and their sponsors. It must be a definite and pragmatic answer, assuring to the people. Not some cosmetic dressing in the public glare to win the votes.
It is now clear that our band of critics are working for their paymasters whose heart is against the Benue project. Some even claim that Governor Ortom has failed. This, I say; if failure means the Governor’s insistence that the killing of Benue people be stopped, then truly, he has failed. If failure to this emergency group of stomach patriots means standing up to the establishment to demand justice to all, then of truth, he has failed. Isn’t it a plus that Ortom’s “failure” has compelled states in the country to ban open grazing of cattle?
Let this message sink: no matter the blackmail or false propaganda against Governor Ortom, these emergency critics will fail. Let everyone seeking to rule Benue in 2023 be ready with their credentials. Not blackmail strategies. Let them tell the people of the state how safe they will make Benue. How Benue’s blood will be stopped from flowing. They should not lay in wait, among the company of Benue colony of critics whose only trade is brigandage and arm-twisting to gain power. This will not work with Governor Ortom.
Ikyur is the Principal Special Assistant on Media to the Executive Governor of Benue State